Smacking ban and suicide link questioned

3 September 2014

An article posted on Stuff recently reported on a Conservative Party political candidate's (Edward Saafi) views that that the so called "anti-smacking law" is to blame for youth suicide and other problems experienced by young people.

There are two fundamental flaws to this concerning and dangerous claim. The first is that there now exists a huge volume of reliable international research that links physical punishment of children with many poor developmental outcomes including mental health problems. Children who experience physical punishment, particularly harsh and ongoing punishment, are likely to be more at risk of suicide and other dangerous behaviour than those who don't.

The second is that discipline and punishment are not the same thing. Dr Saafi implies that young people attempt or commit suicide because their parents are not allowed to discipline them. There is no legal ban on discipline but there is a ban on assault. Discipline (guidance in the context of a loving and supportive and non-violent relationship) is an important parental responsibility but discipline and punishment are not the same thing. There are many positive ways to guide a child's behaviour. Assaulting a child is more likely to result in rebellion, anger and/or poor self-esteem than fostering a trusting relationship in which a child or young person will confide their troubles to important adults in their lives